Cunningham recalled as a 'star, not a celebrity' as hundreds attend funeral


FAMILY AND friends mixed with personalities of the music and media worlds at the funeral yesterday of the well-known Longford country and western singer Larry Cunningham.

Among the hundreds of mourners at his funeral Mass in St Columba’s Church in his native Mullinalaghta were showband and country music veterans Big Tom, Philomena Begley, Brendan Bowyer and Mike Denver.

Also there was Daniel O’Donnell, who described Cunningham’s passing as the end of an era. “It’s a sad day for people in the music business, obviously [his wife] Beatrice and his family lose much more than we do.

“It’s more memories I suppose, for us, of all of that he has given us from a musical point of view, for them it’s their father, husband, brother and grandfather.”

Cunningham’s good friend Fr Brian D’Arcy described him as a character, performer, storyteller and a great family man.

“Larry was not a celebrity, Larry was a star and there is a difference,” he told the congregation. “A star is a real human being who wins respect, a celebrity is a lot less than that. You will not be forgotten, as we will always dance to your music and sing your songs and tell your stories.”

Another good friend of the singer, veteran broadcaster Jimmy Magee, agreed. “Fr Brian said it right, a star is gone, but then the sky is full of stars so he’s up there looking down on us.”

Cunningham’s daughter Sinéad remembered her father as a man who shied away from the limelight. A father, carpenter and musician, he enjoyed Gaelic football and would leave hospital to raise money for charity.

“His 40-year marriage to my mum was full of laughter and joy, especially in the last 12 years when they were together all the time. They were the perfect team and gave my sister, brothers and I an amazing childhood.”

Lorcan Cunningham paid tribute to his father’s many fans. “Dad was so appreciative of his fans for their support and dedication throughout his 50-year career. Thanks to you he hadn’t seen the floorboards in years and today is no exception.”

Philomena Begley said: “It’s a very, very sad day because I had many, many wonderful shows with Larry over the years.”

Only Our Rivers Run Free was played at the graveside as Cunningham was laid to rest in the cemetery beside the church.

He is survived by his wife Beatrice, daughters Regina and Sinéad, sons Barry and Lorcan and grandchildren Molly and Peter.